Form dip in the past for Cohen and Sullivan
Credit Kiwi double-scullers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan with some good old-fashioned hard work as they've rediscovered their mojo just in time for the Olympic regatta.
They will line up in their semifinal at Eton Dorney on Tuesday night (NZ time) and look a hot prospect to advance to a Thursday final where they will have their sights very much on the gold medal.
It's all a long way from the opening World Cup regatta of the Kiwi squad's buildup in Lucerne, where the accomplished back-to-back world champions raced like they had lead in their oars, failing to make the A final and finishing down the field in the consolation race.
For a combination as polished as theirs, there were a few anxious moments. Was there anything physically wrong? Had they just lost form? Technique even? Questions were being asked.
But not, it turns out, by the double themselves, and nor their coach Calvin Ferguson. They just went in search of answers - and it turns out they found them.
"Since then they've worked really hard and they've kept working at it," says Rowing NZ high performance manager Alan Cotter who's been in camp with them the whole way. "They knew they were going slow, but they also knew they had the speed of the other crews.
"They just had to get back the old form. They worked away and worked away and they now have their confidence back. I think they'll keep on improving."
No such doubts exist about the perfect Kiwi pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond whose world record shattering performance in the heat has been the talk of Eton Dorney, this hotbed of rowing out in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
They race their semifinal on Wednesday night (NZ time) and their final on Friday, but every man and their dog wandering round this purpose-built facility have already marked them in for the gold medal. It only remains to be seen if conditions will allow them to have a crack at lowering their magical mark of 6:08.
"They have taken it to another level," said Cotter. "The next time after theirs was 6:16 so they're a fair way in front. But it's not the medal race yet so they've just got to make sure they do it right on finals day."
Cotter said it was too early yet to gauge prospects in the single scull where Mahe Drysdale and Emma Twigg both won their heats easily. They race quarterfinals on Tuesday night (NZ time), but the general feeling is that it won't be until the semifinals (Wednesday for Drysdale, Thursday for Twigg) that we'll have any sort of a feel for the extent of their respective tasks.
Cotter also urged followers not to write off the prospects of the women's pair of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown and the lightweight double of Louise Ayling and Julia Edward who were both a little below their best for the heats.
Scown and Haigh trailed home the Aussies by a wide margin, but still made it safely through to Wednesday night's final, while the light double head to repechage action Tuesday after fading to third in their heat.
"They were in the fastest heat, and they've learnt from it after they just got a bit carried away in the first 500," said Cotter of the lightweight double. "They've got the world's best time, they've got speed in them, they've just got to think about it."
And Cotter believed the world champion women's pair had another gear to go to.
"They can row better than that and they'll have to," he said. "They've only got one row left and they'll need to put it on the track if they're going to get up in the medals. They've shown in training they are capable."
Lightweight double Storm Uru and Peter Taylor also showed enough in their heat, where they came close to hauling in the classy British duo, that they're not far off the mark heading into Thursday's semis.